It’s hard to find too much fault with The Lord of the Rings. The Oscar-Winning series deserves all the praise and adoration that is heaped on it as simultaneously functions as piece of high and intelligent fantasy while still being a rollicking adventure series.
Still, the movies inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterworks are far from perfect. While there was a great deal of care and respect that went into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a few very confusing and unexplained elements still remain.
It’s true that some of the problems in Lord of the Rings can be solved in the movie’s extended editions or are explained in detail during the books. However, looking just at the original three films in their theatrical cuts, they were still many things left out, ignored, or added to the stories that made very little sense.
None of these elements threaten to destroy the very fabric of the series and few issues rise above the level of annoying nitpicks. However, there are still parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy that are incomprehensible or beg further explanation that is never given.
Here are the 15 Weird Things That Make NO Sense in the Lord of the Rings.
15. Gandalf’s Short Term Memory Loss
The blame here lies in The Hobbit trilogy rather than anything in the Lord of the Rings. Still the cinematic version of The Hobbit has retroactively made Gandalf into a bit of dummy during Fellowship of the Ring.
In an effort to pad out the prequel story to three movies, a lot of subplots were added to Bilbo’s adventures, with several characters getting long arcs that exist nowhere else in the lore.
One of these additions is Gandalf being put on the trail of the One Ring far earlier than intended. Throughout The Hobbit trilogy, Gandalf figures out or at the very least strongly suspects that Sauron’s return is imminent. Yet by Fellowship, he’s forgotten all about it with no explanation.
Even if it’s decades later that’s still a blink of an eye for Gandalf. Although in The Battle of the Five Armies, Sauron is “banished” Gandalf is still unreasonably shocked to find out the truth about the Dark Lord and the ring in Fellowship of the Ring.
14. The Speed of the Elves
The race of the elves are a lot more agile and speedy than men. Elves are not human, and they often act as such in combat situations during the trilogy. However, there’s still some strangeness about how quickly the elves travel across Middle Earth.
This is especially evident in the latter two movies where the armies of the elves essentially teleport all over the land. Lord of the Rings is almost pain-staking realistic about how long it takes the characters to get to one end of the Middle Earth to the other when comes to the main characters but the elves just pop where needed.
The most egregious example is at Helm’s Deep when the Elves appear, ahead of the orcs, with no justification. It’s one of the series’ classic deus ex machina moments but it still it’s still bizarre how the elves jumped ahead of the Fellowship and why they’re even at the fortress in the first place.
13. Minas Tirith Not Starving To Death
When Minas Tirith is introduced it’s a city under siege and amid a gigantic and cataclysmic war. By most normal standards that would cause a bit of strain on resources and food. Yet while the people of Minas Tirith are obviously preparing for war they don’t seem much worse for wear.
The rulers are shown to be eating quite extensive meals, none of the people seem to be starving at all and despite some fretting there’s no real sense of impending doom.
Yet looking at Minas Tirith, this makes almost no sense. It’s a castle built into a literal mountain, there should be no way that food should be in abundance because it clearly can’t be coming from inside the city. A city like Minas Tirith would be getting sustenance from outside but somehow, in the movies at least, the city is thriving.
12. Gandalf and Shadowfax’s On-Again and Off-Again Relationship
Shadowfax is Gandalf’s trusty steed and one of the great movie horses of all time. Not only is his name absolutely top-notch, Shadowfax is seriously impressive quite literally magical. He is after all “the lord of all horses.”
Yet despite having such a reliable tool in his arsenal Gandalf only really uses Shadowfax in Two Towers and Return of the King. Shadowfax is seen briefly in Fellowship and allows Gandalf to accomplish his lengthy Sauron research mission, in slightly less time, but it’s only until Gandalf becomes Gandalf the White that Shadowfax turns into his constant companion.
This is just confusing. There’s never a reason given for why Gandalf won’t want Shadowfax while traveling initially with the Fellowship. Yes, a big part of the group’s early journeying is on foot and through a mountain. Still, when you have a magical horse at your disposal you use them.
11. Everyone Knows About Hobbits Suddenly
It’s well established in the early movies that hobbits are a little-known and much isolated race in Middle Earth. Once Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin travel outside of The Shire it’s a novelty for most characters to see a hobbit and they often have to have the whole race explained to them.
The longer the movies go and the further the hobbits go from their home the less this becomes issue when the inverse should be true.
The farther away from the Shire the movies are set the bigger deal The Hobbit should be for most people. Everyone should be questioning their existence but eventually hobbits just become commonplace, outside of a few sassy remarks.
Perhaps though it’s just better to think that the hobbit questioning happens off-camera and the average Gondor solider spends half of the final battle wondering why children with big hairy feet are present.
10. The Whole Eagles Conundrum
It’s such an easy complaint to level at the franchise and it’s probably the first thing that comes to most fans mind when thinking about logic issues. Still, as they are presented in the movies, the eagles make absolutely no sense. They are a deus ex machina of the highest order and they exist simply to pull all our heroes’ collective fats out of the fire.
There are lore reasons explained in the books and other sources that explain why exactly The Eagles don’t just make the entire trilogy into one short film. In the movies, however, the Eagles are left a mystery. There’s never ever any reason given to why they don’t just drop the Fellowship off at the doorstep of Mordor and call it a day.
9. Pippin’s Expanding Stomach and Steady Waistline
In reality, the biggest problem plaguing Merry, Pippin and all the other hobbits during The Lord of the Rings shouldn’t be the hordes of orcs or the rage of Sauron. The biggest problem the hobbits should be facing is morbid and dangerous obesity.
The hobbits, but Pippin in particular, eat an insane amount during the trilogy. Pippin eats Lembas bread, which can instantly fill the stomach with a single, like it’s popcorn.
It becomes a bit of a running gag how much the hobbits are consuming with lines like wanting to have twelve breakfasts. While the jokes start out amusing (and become passable) they really raise a larger issue. The hobbit’s food intake should not be possible.
It could be argued that hobbits have an extremely high metabolism but that explanation doesn’t hold water when there are different sizes and shapes of hobbits. Sam is unquestionably chubby but Pippin and Merry are sticks. There’s no explanation for it unless every hobbit has a black hole for a stomach.
8. Frodo’s Special Ring “Privileges”
It becomes a recurring motif in The Lord of the Rings that whenever Frodo puts on the ring he sees Sauron. Yet Frodo, obviously, isn’t the first ring-bearer.
The visions of Sauron start almost immediately for Frodo, but Bilbo wore the ring for nearly half his life and there’s never any hint or mention of him seeing the Dark Lord.
Obviously, Frodo getting glimpses of Saruon while wearing the ring makes for good drama and consistently building the threat. At the same time, it makes no sense on a logical level, even if it’s good for a dramatic one.
The movies never try to explain why Frodo is special or why Sauron can sense him so easily. Frodo is the hero of the franchise but part of what makes him special is that he’s not at all special. He’s just an average hobbit … with this weirdly specific power.
7. Gandalf Forgetting He Has Magic
Gandalf is easily one of the most powerful figures in Middle Earth. Gandalf is basically at a god level of power when the trilogy ultimately wraps and has enormous amount of magic at his disposal.
Yet, for unexplained reasons, in most of the big battle scenes Gandalf can be seen just swinging a sword or bashing orcs on the head with his staff à la Rafiki in The Lion King.
Obviously, there’s some finesse and precision needed in the heat of battle. Gandalf can’t go about using his magic all the time without some allies getting caught in the friendly fire. Still, the movies vacillate between Gandalf being the ultimate powerhouse to just one of the average the foot soldiers.
Granted, while some of this might be intentional and keeping in character with Gandalf as a humble but shrewd puppetmaster. Still Gandalf could do a little bit more in battles than just swing a sword.
6. Bilbo’s Rapid Aging Post-Ring
When Bilbo Baggins gives up the One Ring he’s 111 years old, but he looks about 50. The reason given for this feat is that the ring has allowed him to keep his youth intact. However, once Bilbo gives his ring, he ages at an alarming and accelerated rate, so much so that by the time of Return of the King he’s little more than wrinkly vegetable.
While the books do explain this in more detail, as far as the movies are concerned it seems like the ring, and the ring alone, were the only thing keeping Bilbo youthful and spirit. This would be a fine explanation if Gollum didn’t exist as a character.
Gollum has been without the ring for far longer than Bilbo when he’s introduced in Fellowship but he doesn’t age at all. In fact, he looks exactly the same as he did in The Hobbit which precedes the trilogy by over 50 years.
Now Gollum isn’t exactly winning any beauty contests, since he has been corrupted by the ring. However, he still manages to crawl and tumble like the youthful annoying (and excitable) little monkey man that he is throughout the series.
5. The Mystery of the Dwarf Ring Bearers
The rhyme about the rings of power is as memorable and it is important to the core of The Lord of the Rings. Most every fan knows that the dwarves, men and elves all received rings of power with Sauron’s jewelry being the one piece to “rule them all.”
While the movies take steps to explain what happened to the elvish and human ring-bearers, the dwarves are pretty forgotten to time. Glimi is pretty much the sole representative of the entire dwarvish race through the entire trilogy. The movies never go into depth what happened to the seven dwarvish lords who received their “gifts” from Sauron.
A quick internet search can answer the question of the dwarvish ring-bearers for anyone curious enough to look. Regardless this seems like a huge bit of lore that is completely abandoned by the movies, making it seem like Peter Jackson hated the dwarves as much as the standard elf.
4. The Death of the Witch King
Eowyn slaying the Witch King is more of the most crowd-pleasing and empowering moments in the cinematic trilogy. Eowyn triumphantly telling the Witch King she can kill him because she’s not a man, but a woman, is not only meme-worthy it’s an incredibly iconic.
However as cool as Eowyn’s big act of heroism is, it makes little to no sense. At least at it’s presented in the context of the movie. It’s explained in the books that the Witch King’s protections are weakened slowly and surely during the battle and that’s what allows Eowyn to strike the final and fatal blow.
However in the movies, the only stated explanation is Eowyn’s own, she’s able to kill one of the most ominous figures in the franchise because of her gender. It’s a great scene for female empowerment but one that lacks any common sense, even in a fantasy setting.
3. The Diversity in the Race of Men
The cast of the Lord of the Rings is shocking and unbelievably white. This does make sense given the story comes from a British author and the whole tale is steeped in White European sensibilities. However, it is more than a little hard to believe that no people of color exist anywhere in the land of Middle Earth.
In the books it is explained that there are people of color in the world. They just exist in a different corner of the universe. The people of Harad, which is a land to the south, look much more like what we would recognize as “Africans” compared to the Gondorians who are undeniably European in appearance.
2. The Nazgul Are Awfully Lazy
The Nazgul are one of the most famous baddies in cinema history. Although they really are nothing more than walking cloaks, there’s some immediately terrifying and captivating about them. Yet in the first couple of appearances in the trilogy the Nazgul don’t make the best impression.
While eventually they became horrific figures akin to a waking nightmare, at first they are just grunts. Grunts who can’t even really do their one job properly. Shortly into Fellowship, the Nazul manage to trap Frodo and the hobbits.
They nearly take back the one ring and turn Frodo into a wraith in one stroke. However, they’re stopped by Aragon… who uses nothing more than torch and sword.
Aragon is an impressive fighter and one of the accomplished heroes of the trilogy. Yet his fight against the Nazgul is just laughable. A few Nazgul do get set on fire but mostly they just attack Aragon one at a time and essentially let Aragon get the better of them before running away like chumps. It’s almost like their (non-existent) hearts aren’t in the hunt for the One Ring.
1. Elrond Casually Dooms Everyone
The flashback retelling Isildur’s fall to the corruption of the One Ring is Lord of the Rings at its most epic and jaw-dropping. The sequence with Sauron’s first “defeat” and Isildur’s subsequent fall is just an achievement unlike any other on just a visual level.
However, as impressive that flashback is, it’s still host to one of the most momentously weird and stupid moments in the trilogy. Elrond and Isildur find themselves in the middle of Mount Doom and all Isildur has to do is throw the ring into the fire but he refuses (and sets up the event epic to come) and, inexplicably, Elrond just lets him go.
Isildur causally and calmly walks out of Mount Doom while Elrond just stands there yelling at him. Hugo Weaving does a fantastic job playing the moment but there’s no getting around that Elrond just lets Isildur ruin the world.
It’s well within Elrond’s character to fight back or even push Isildur into the fire but he does nothing. As much as that moment causes Elrond to resent humans for generations, he’s just as much to blame for what happened.
What are some of your biggest pet peeves or least favorite confusing or unexplained moments in The Lord of the Rings? Sound off in the comments below!
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